In a historic moment for India, Mariyappan Thangavelu won the gold medal while compatriot Varun Singh Bhati clinched the bronze in the men's high jump T-42 event on Saturday at the Rio Paralympics.
The 20-year-old Thangavelu made a leap of 1.89m, while Bhati jumped his personal best of 1.86m to finish third. USA's Sam Grewe bagged the silver medal.
India's other medal prospect Sharad Kumar finished at number six. T-42 is a disability classification in the sport for differently-abled track-and-field athletes with single ‘above the knee’ amputations or a comparable disability.The event witnessed a fierce contest with six of the 12 athletes clearing the 1.74m mark in their first eight attempts.
But Thangavelu became a part of the leading group after his 10th attempt when he cleared the 1.77m mark along with Lukasz Mamczarz of Poland, China's Zhiqiang Zhing and Kumar.
He then went into the lead along with Bhati as both managed to clear the 1.83m mark. Kumar however, could not improve his performance and eventually crashed out of medal contention. Grewe pushed Thangavelu and Bhati to the joint second position by clearing 1.86m to grab the top spot. But both Indians made a strong comeback by equalling the height to share the pole position.
Thangavelu eventually made sure of the gold with an effort of 1.89m in his final attempt while Grewe and Bhati's finished with best efforts of 1.86m. Thangavelu was injured at the age of five, when a bus accident left him with a permanent disability, according to a report in The Hindu. Bronze medal winner Bhati was diagnosed with polio which lead to a deformity in his legs, according to a NDTV report.
This is India's first medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games, and with Bhati's bronze, India now has two medals in this edition. Thangavelu also became the first Indian high jumper to win a Paralympics gold. HN Girisha was the first Indian high-jumper to win a medal, at the 2012 Paralympic Games.
He is also the third Indian to win a gold at Paralympics after Murlikant Petkar, who won in Swimming, at Heidelberg 1972 and Devendra Jhajharia who won at Athens 2004 in Javelin Throw. India's overall medal tally in all Paralympic Games has now stands at 10 – three golds, three silvers and four bronze.
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